Why am I watching this?! Before We Get Married

Yeah, Jasper Liu is attractive, but dang! My skin crawled more than a little at times in episode 1 watching him obsess over the engaged and proper Puff Kuo! I confess to having watched 3 episodes so far of this Taiwanese drama because I just am more than a little curious how far (and dark) they may take this one.

Let’s be sure about one thing though, if he were not rich and attractive (his character, that is), there would be a restraining order slapped on him pretty damn fast, let alone an arrest for sexual harassment! Will I keep watching? I dunno…

#before-we-get-married, #jasper-liu, #puff-kuo

Sampling The Longest Day In Chang’an

Wow! If the first 2 episodes are any indication of craft and storytelling, this one will be spectacular!

There wasn’t anything that I didn’t find fascinating (though you might have to be a fast reader to catch all of the details in some of the subs). The story begins presenting problems to be solved — who are these people, what is the conspiracy that’s feared, what are they (both sides) up against? For a thriller fan like me, it’s enticing, but there is the added bonus of a very richly portrayed and exotic Tang Dynasty world.

Brief plot points for the set-up: A disgraced sleuth (military or police?) on death row is ‘bailed out’ by a wunderkind head of the anti-terrorist force (my term) to find a gang that appears to be set on murder and mayhem that very day in Chang’an. The plot may destabilize the throne, it may overthrow it… who knows!

I see that there are going to be 2 seasons of this but it looks amazing and I’ve got my fingers crossed that it continues as strongly as it started.

#the-longest-day-in-changan

Well Intended Love – Series Review

I began this drama with some cautious optimism because I’d had a pretty good experience with another Mango TV production (I Hear You) and someone in my Twitterverse had enjoyed it, but I also was curious because of some pretty adamant negative remarks on MyDramaList.com — people abandoned ship fairly early on and never looked back. So what inspired these conflicting viewpoints? Well, a lot, it turns out.

Frankly, I think most people stayed for Xu Kai Cheng, because he frankly is very appealing. I actually found Wang Shuang (aka Simona Wang) likable as well. But oh, the drama tropes they put these two through! It’s only because I was shallow enough to enjoy their performance together that I followed along with the various obstacles thrown into their paths willy-nilly (with a judicious use of the fast-forward button), but I won’t say say that I especially enjoyed much of what I saw along the way.

Let’s see, we’ve got a high-powered wealthy CEO 👍🏻, who’s a domineering control-freak 👍🏻, who does things for the heroine’s love that are supposed to be romantic but really?, really? 🤔 There’s a “terminal” illness and medical malpractice… We’ve also got a contract marriage, and the requisite cohabitation hijinx. Then there’s the “but they’re gay, right, and we’re cool with that, right?” sub-plot which falls incredibly flat. Let’s toss in a rich girl who won’t take “no” for an answer, a rich boy who is the type who probably enjoys pulling wings off flies but is nice to his dog (but not above using it as a pawn), and mommy abandonment issues. There are probably a half-dozen more I’m forgetting… oh, like amnesia!

When a drama is one long inter-connected string of cliches after another, what is there to like or admire about it? Well, I did say that I found Xu Kai Cheng and Wang Shuang appealing, and it is true, but hardly enough to stick around for if I’m to be honest. I liked his “I only have eyes for you” intensity and I liked her breezy playfulness with his best pal and dedication to making her career as a “D-list actress” on her own merits without cashing in on his name and influence. This, like I Hear You, places value on earning your own way in the world, and I can’t dislike that. But the rest of this is a mess. What’s even more astounding, though, is that they’re purportedly working on a sequel!

Oh, and there is a turn of events at about episode 11 that put most people off for good. You can read what this is after the jump if you want to save yourself the trouble of watching that far!

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#boss-wants-to-marry-me, #ian-yi, #simona-wang, #wang-shuang, #well-intended-love, #xu-kai-cheng

Netflix and new Chinese dramas from Mango TV

In order to not swoon myself to death over the gorgeous thing that is the Park Min-young and Kim Jae-wook relationship in Her Private Life, I have been taking detours all over the place and picked up 2 new Cdramas that Netflix has added. The first of these is I Hear You; the second is Well-intended Love and I’ll write about that one soon. Wile neither was top-drawer, they both have things to enjoy and even admire.

I Hear You is the story of opposites attracting (of course), and it ends up as a cohabitation drama. Ye Shuwei is a gifted violin maker and Bai Erduo is an aspiring voice-over actress. He’s tall and (overly) fashionable (in a manga hero way) and she’s petite and more the casual type. He’s established internationally and she’s yet to find success but is studying hard. He’s tsundere (of course) and she’s candid and outgoing. They are paired up on a reality dating show by his uncle (a younger uncle played by a guy with a strong resemblance to BTS’s Jimin), the show’s producer, and her best friend, the show runner. Their first meeting prior to the show casting is tainted by a misunderstanding; she thinks he’s been bribed or enticed by another voice-over actress with less talent but influential connections. He’s miffed that she would judge him so without knowing the facts, or even who he is.

On the show they must portray a real-life couple, but her poor first impression makes this a challenge to play along. Also, they’ve not really had romantic relationships before so they struggle with finding the way to do so genuinely. One scandal in the making leads to another and before you can say “Bob’s your uncle” they’re sharing his palatial home (separate bedrooms, of course).

There are some very predictable but cute moments between them that makes the show entertaining to watch, but what I really appreciated was the focus on her trying to develop her career and not depend on his connections. She’s studying Japanese, for example, to win a place at a good school in Japan and get proper training, and the show is a way to earn enough money to get there sooner. He doesn’t get in her way, and he doesn’t go overboard in trying to help her behind the scenes either — no fairy godfather stuff.

The relationship between the show producer and show runner though is very interesting too, especially the choices both make in the course of the story. If you watch the show, or have seen it, I would love to discuss Tang Li’s decisions in particular! (And also, tell me who you think she reminds you of because she’s not done much besides this so I’ve not seen her before. Some of her mannerisms remind me, in a way, of Gong Hyo-jin, but there’s someone else and I can’t put my finger on it…)

It’s not perfect; I find that they went a little overboard with the manga-esque characterization and costuming of Ye Shuwei because it takes you a little out of the moment when he’s cutting wood for a violin in a suit. I also was not keen on Bai Erduo’s mom and the money situation at times, but it wasn’t horrible, and that’s what the fast-forward button is there for.

One final comment (but it’s a spoiler so it’s after the jump)…

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#dai-zhuo-ning, #gratitude-dai, #i-hear-you, #mango, #netflix, #riley-wang, #wang-yi-lun, #yuan-hao, #zhao-lu-si

Breathtaking, simply breathtaking movie: Shadow

From the moment I saw the trailer on the big screen I knew I would pay the exorbitant parking fees to go see it in the downtown Chicago theater (it’s in a very limited release, unfortunately). Shadow, the most recent work from Zhang Yimou, is one of the most visually stimulating movies I’ve seen in recent years.

There is nothing to fault in this movie; story, cast, costume, set direction, cinematography, fight sequences, soundtrack… it has it all.

The plot seems straightforward; a worthy general has taken the drastic step of challenging the general who represents an “allied” (usurping) kingdom that is holding the principal city of his king. This act has potentially serious consequences and sets in motion a number of plots and devices. There’s more to the story that the superficial political moves; the general is more than he seems to be. His story unfolds in a non-linear narrative, contrasting to the more straightforward conflict. He is the “shadow” of another, chosen in boyhood for his resemblance to another, trained to be his double and protect him from potential assassination and other threats. Deng Chao plays both characters and is so convincing that it seems that another actor plays his genuine alter-ego.

The one who must tread carefully between the two (especially now that her real husband is ill and cannot be seen publicly) is the real general’s wife, played by Sun Li. The above image would imply that she is emotionally close to the imposter, but the relationships are not so transparent. You could say that they’re as cloudy as the inky character banners, ink-wash drawings, and swirling layers of silken robes that provide the visual texture to every scene. And let’s not forget the rain… constant rain which plays its own role in the story.

The fight choreography is beautiful as well, especially the sequence in which Sun Li’s character tells her husband that she thinks that she can adapt his moves to find a way to defeat the opposing general’s deadly techniques. The others involve the use of the “umbrella” weapons; when unleashed en masse they made me gasp aloud in the theater!

Those of you who’ve seen Ever Night will recognize General Yang; it’s Hu Jun again as an imposing and difficult to beat fighter. And lovers of Nirvana in Fire will be surprised to see impertinent little Fei Liu now the muscular youth, the son of General Yang. Wu Lei has grown!

Official Synopsis:

With SHADOW, director Zhang Yimou (HERO, HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS) once again pushes the boundaries of wuxia action to create a film like no other, masterfully painting a canvas of inky blacks and greys punctuated with bursts of color from the blood of the defeated. In a kingdom ruled by a young and unpredictable king, the military commander has a secret weapon: a “shadow”, a look-alike who can fool both his enemies and the King himself. Now he must use this weapon in an intricate plan that will lead his people to victory in a war that the King does not want.

#dong-chao, #guan-xiaotong, #hu-jun, #leo-wu, #shadow, #sun-li, #wang-jingchun, #wang-qianyuan, #wu-lei, #zhang-yimou, #zheng-kai

While on a movie binge I saw this trailer for “Shadow”

This looks amazing, especially on the big screen, and I can’t wait to see the whole thing. And for those watching Ever Night, you might recognize the general with the smirk, Hu Jun!

More on the movies seen soon 😊

#deng-chao, #hu-jun, #shadow, #sun-li

I’ve fallen down the “Ever Night” rabbit hole

The bags under my eyes are starting to resemble those of veteran actor Ni Dahong!

I’m up to episode 45 (of 60, not 75, it turns out) of Ever Night and my imagination is too filled with it to stop watching at a sensible hour. (By the way, if he looks familiar, he was the Emperor in Rise of the Phoenixes.)

More (non-spoilery) after the break.

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#arthur-chen, #chen-fei-yu, #chin-shih-chieh, #ever-night, #leon-lai, #marco-chen, #ni-dahong, #shi-shi, #song-yi-ren, #tong-yao